I had an epiphany watching Mad Men a few Sundays ago. When Don Draper’s new wife, Megan, began shoveling a bright orange sherbet she didn’t like into her mouth at Don’s client’s restaurant, in a an angry, in-your-face (and-gah-in-mine-too) response to the guilt-inducing expectations of her bossy, 50’s-style husband Don (spoiler alert: he’s increasingly Big Daddy-like), I felt like I’d seen this scene somewhere…before.
Ah, yes. It was a lot like the way many of our visitors come to the Art Museum to enjoy themselves, but somehow end up feeling like they have to try to take it all in at once, to appease the superior demanding art gods (and guards). The unseen and watchful forces that make you feel guilty if you don’t stand longer than you’d like in front of some work of art that, while fabulous to many, just does nothing for you. Why can’t you just walk on? Why can’t you skip the label, and just stare? Why can’t you chill with one single work? This one today, not those, not that?
Well, you can. Because you are allowed to come here and see the things you like best!
Just because a museum can feel like Don Draper, the cool all-knowing guy who seems like he is in a position to tell you what to think or do, you don’t have to buy into it. You don’t have to be Megan trying to do what’s expected. I pass tired families trying to see it all while simultaneously trying to handle a heavy stroller, three kids and two hungry out-of-town in-laws, and I long to stop and whisper, “Psst! It’s okay to see one gallery or even one painting, and call it a day! It’s okay if you’d like to just go have coffee across from our Miró. That Miró has seen many a coffee drinker in its day. It’s okay if you want to sit with your friend in a peaceful British gallery looking at a portrait. Enjoy yourself here! It’s allowed!”
This is just me, but I think it’s okay to walk in and look at the Damscus room’s million-tile color scheme and be amazed, and leave and go look at the trees in Eden Park, too. It’s okay to just come here to go into one room, and sit on a bench and chill out because you’ve had an insane week. You can do it here. It’s fine. On a busy day, one gorgeous work to savor and mull over is sometimes…just perfect. Check out the newish Icons of the Museum in the Schmidlapp gallery off the Front Lobby. It’s perfectly designed to let you discover an icon singly, on your own, your thoughtful way. You can make more connections to art from that point if you like. Got that? If you like. You can even just enjoy us on our Art After Dark final Fridays (see website) if that’s more your style.
This summer, don’t try to shove in more than you’d like. We’re not judging you. This is your Art Museum. If you want to take it one bite at a time for the next fifty years, it’s fine by us. Our admission is always FREE. Yes: it’s FREE to walk in and look around. So come here a lot, and see it one bite at a time. Choose a new favorite each time. Bring a friend, look at more. As the saying goes in Chicago, vote early, and often. We’re here for you. So is the art. Enjoy it your way.
Then, go get some ice cream at Frisch’s or Graeters or Aglamesis Brothers. The flavor you like that particular day does not have to be the city’s flavor of the month. Just yours.